IF-Competition 2006 Comments

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u...@mail.ru

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Nov 19, 2006, 6:23:55 AM11/19/06
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Hi everybody,

First of all, I'd like to congratulate all of us on the overall high
quality of the entries in IF-Competition 2006. By my estimation, more
than a quarter of them are excellent games - a result well beyond
IF-Comps of quite a few previous years (although I might be forgetting
or missing something).

Unfortunately, I still don't have the time to write full-fledged (or
BAF's guide sized, for that matter) reviews on all of the games. What
follows are just short comments consisting of 1 to 3 sentences
(although I definitely plan to write deeper reviews for a couple of
them sometime later).

A short note on what my ratings basically mean:

1 - couldn't find anything good to say about the game;
2 to 4 - seriously flawed work;
5 - average (IOW, totally unremarkable);
6 - solid work but nothing special;
7 to 9 - games of various grades of excellence;);
10 - my favourite.

I also extended the standard system by pluses/minuses (like 9+ or 6-),
because sometimes the differences between the games were pretty subtle.

Games with the same rating are listed in alphabetical order.

Games rated a 1:

Enter The Dark: Somewhere very early in the game, I got hopelessly
stuck; the action suggested by the enclosed walkthrough didn't work the
way it should, so that I couldn't see most of the story. What I'd seen
of it, though, didn't make me feel I was missing much.

Fetter's Grim: See comment for Green Falls. Besides, I must have missed
the point of this game entirely.

Green Falls: All this year's Comp entries by Mr. Panks seemed to be
slightly modified versions of one and the same game, so that I felt
it'd be justified to rate only one of them, automatically giving its
clones a one.

PTGOOD 8*10^23: Expressing one's protest against someone's littering
the IF-Competition with intentionally bad games by littering the said
Competition with more intentionally bad games hardly seems to be the
answer.

Sisyphus: The rating reflects pretty accurately the entertainment value
of pushing a heavy boulder up a steep hill for all eternity. It was
Sisyphus' labour to code this game in the first place.

Tentellian Island: Crude parser, almost no plot, uninteresting setting,
obscure puzzles here and there, lack of a thorough walkthrough.

Games rated a 2:

Visocica: Seems to be an old-school cave crawl adventure, but with
several design decisions very frustrating for the player (like, not
mentioning all available exits in room descriptions, puzzles requiring
obvious but tedious sequences of actions, etc.), which quickly made me
resort to the walkthrough. This worked fine for a while, until a
suggested action didn't work as it should. Oh, and one more thing: the
game is in German.

Wumpus Run: A seemingly faithful remake of an adventure game from the
1980-s. Represents a randomly generated maze with several opportunities
for irrevocable dying with almost no warning. Winning or failing
depends purely on luck - as much as in a dice game.

Games rated a 3:

Ballymun Adventure: A scavenger hunt with a pretty mundane goal. I'd
also prefer if the implementation depth/number of rooms ratio turned
out to be somewhat higher.

The Bible Retold: A not-too-brilliant comic retelling of a parable from
the Gospel. Technically, it probably deserves one or two more points,
but I think this isn't an appropriate subject for attempts on humour.
(Yes, I'm a Christian.)

Simple Adventure: An RPG, in which the player has to ramble through a
vast number of empty locations, hunting for monsters to fight with, and
useful items to pick up. The only advantage of such an approach: the
rather primitive parser manages not to get into the player's way.

Games rated a 4:

Beam: Sure, the game is pretty limited, and hasn't got much to offer;
still, it's the best Quest game I've ever seen.

A Broken Man: Technical flaws and the absence of a warning about adult
content has cost it a point. Plus, it wasn't easy for me to identify
myself with the protagonist.

The Initial State: A very crude parser, but the author managed to
organize his work in a way that made the gameplay pretty smooth
nevertheless. Even features a story, although (intentionally) not a
very satisfying one.

Lawn of Love: Wow! The first game by Santoonie Corp. I've ever been
able to complete. I still couldn't make head or tail of the ending,
though, and the implementation was somewhat untidy.

Pathfinder: A mystery that seems like one big stretching point.
Implementation problems didn't help, either.

Polendina: The story isn't good enough to provide for complete
immersion, but at least it's strange enough to distract from most
implementation glitches.

Games rated a 5:

Another Goddamn Escape the Locked Room Game: A deliberately silly game,
meant as a parody. Thus, it's no problem the plot doesn't make sense at
all. Could be even a 6, if the puzzles were less obscure.

The Apocalypse Clock: By no means a good game, but at least it's
(self-)ironical enough to escape an even lower rating.

Carmen Devine: Supernatural Troubleshooter: Good premise (having a
werewolf PC with appropriate special abilities), but the implementation
is somewhat too shallow. The latter goes especially for NPCs.

Fight or Flight: A basically good idea was ruined totally by badly
implemented NPC interaction.

MANALIVE, A Mystery of Madness - II: In the second part of Chesterton's
novel IF-incarnation things started going less smooth, thus a one-point
drop of the rating. (See also the comment for MANALIVE - I among the
games rated a 6).

Requiem: The game'd be more honest if it manifested itself a CYOA from
the very start - it artificially restricts the majority of your actions
most of the time, anyway. In many respects, seemed like a degenerated
version of Mortality, the IF-Comp entry by the same author from the
previous year.

Games rated a 6:

Game Producer!: This humorous game company simulator provides a good
way to pass an hour or two, although, again, it's not without technical
flaws.

Hedge: The minimal path through the game featured just enough for a
rating of six. Of the optional puzzles, I couldn't master even a single
one.

Labyrinth: Reminds of the Magic Toyshop game from the very first
IF-competition; like Magic Toyshop, effectively represents a pretty
random bunch of logical puzzles, although the plot thread holding them
together is somewhat tougher here than it has been back in 1995.

MANALIVE, A Mystery of Madness - I: If the prose stemmed from the game
author himself, the rating would be (much) higher; since, however, it's
just an IF-adaptation of a work by Chesterton, the only thing to rate
has been the quality of this adaptation. I didn't encounter any
technical problems, though.

The Sisters: Pretty solid and atmospheric horror story; even the
possibility of skipping a large section of the game because of a bug
doesn't change this fact.

Star City: This accusing piece on Stalinism isn't very deep, but for
that, it's fairly well-implemented. Bonus: a land-the-spaceship
simulator in the endgame.

The Tower of the Elephant: Pretty straightforward "save the world
(country, family, friend - underscore what's applicable)" story, but
the implementation is very solid.

Unauthorized Termination: A very convincing game world with a
thoroughly thought through and consequently implemented conception.
Failed to get a higher rating due to minor technical problems, and a
few story inconsistencies.

Games rated a 7-:

Strange Geometries: The game contains some non-critical yet annoying
bugs, as well as obscure puzzles; however, it's based on such original
ideas that the latter make one forget most of the drawbacks.

Xen: The Hunt: Personally for me, it's been a pleasure to see the
author really had learned a lot from the criticisms on his last year
entry, Xen: The Contest, and had fixed most of the problems typical for
that game in the next episode of the series without impairing the
work's main asset, the strong plot. Still, there has been a couple of
bugs and underimplementations, which prevented it from getting a higher
rating.

Game rated a 7:

Aunts and Butlers: A problem-free, albeit not too deep, humorous game.
Normally, I'd rate it a six, but the fact it's been created using a
non-standard parser deserves an extra point.

Game rated a 7+:

The Primrose Path: A really shining game. The only things I had to
grumble about where, I still didn't quite get the plot in the end, as
well as a couple of interaction issues (some solutions to problems
didn't work, although they seemed pretty logical at the moment.)

Games rated an 8:

The Elysium Enigma:
Floatpoint: Both games won me over by very thorough implementation -
they had a response for literally any action I could think of. They had
a few more things in common: for instance, it seemed impossible to
exploit all of their options within the two hour limit - except maybe
if you played directly from the walkthrough; they also offered a lot in
terms of whistles and bells, but the outcomes turned out to be pretty
predictable. The writing in Floatpoint really shined, but, to my
surprise, I stumbled across a couple of bugs, when my otherwise overly
convincing environment suddenly reacted in a way clearly not intended
by the author. In Elysium Enigma, I had to complain about the behaviour
inconsistence of the main villain, who seemed to be very eager to get
caught. These issues resulted in a rating drop of one point for both
games,

Madam Spider's Web: Done in a very old-school way, but so thoroughly
there's nothing left to be wished. Would be a nine, if only the author
could think up a less overused way to resolve the plot.

Moon-Shaped: Another variation of The Red Riding Hood fairy tale,
which, however, is sufficiently original, atmospheric and
well-implemented to give it an excellent rating.

Games rated a 9:

Delightful Wallpaper:
Moebius: Although none of those games did even try to make of their
plots more than a support for the puzzles, I felt I had to credit the
novelty and quality of the latter. Really fresh ideas in respect to
puzzles have become rarities in the last few years, so that one has to
do something against their complete extinction - be it something as
trivial as giving them a high rating.

Game rated a 9+:

Legion: A planet as a PC (well, sort of) - I don't think I've ever
encountered something like this! Very thorough implementation with
multiple endings. Probably the only complaint (which should be rather
considered nitpicking) - more emotions wouldn't harm.

Game rated a 10:

The Traveling Swordsman: Started in a very traditional way, but as I
played on, I've been amazed that practically any action I could think
of was implemented, as well as fascinated by the quality of the
puzzles. The final twist of the plot ultimately won me over, leaving me
no other choice than rating it a ten.

And that's it. Of course, I'm open for any comments at uux-at-mail.ru.

Valentine

dgen...@hotmail.com

unread,
Nov 19, 2006, 8:29:16 AM11/19/06
to

u...@mail.ru wrote:

snip


>
> Wumpus Run: A seemingly faithful remake of an adventure game from the
> 1980-s. Represents a randomly generated maze with several opportunities
> for irrevocable dying with almost no warning. Winning or failing
> depends purely on luck - as much as in a dice game.
>

The original Wumpus game was not dependent on luck. It was a puzzle
game, with crude graphics, in some ways (but not all ways) similar to
more recent "Mine Sweeper" puzzles. This year's IF remake missed what
was good about the original game.

> Games rated a 3:

> The Bible Retold: A not-too-brilliant comic retelling of a parable from


> the Gospel. Technically, it probably deserves one or two more points,
> but I think this isn't an appropriate subject for attempts on humour.
> (Yes, I'm a Christian.)

This game was downright reverent, compared to last year's "Jesus of
Nazareth" entry by Paul Allen Panks. In that version, Jesus does hand
to hand combat against his adverseries.


> Games rated a 4:
>

> The Initial State: A very crude parser, but the author managed to
> organize his work in a way that made the gameplay pretty smooth
> nevertheless. Even features a story, although (intentionally) not a
> very satisfying one.
>

I agree with your review of this one. I didn't think I would ever give
a game with such a primitive parser any score greater than a "2". But
the quality of the writing and story was fine enough for me to give
this one a 3+. I didn't quite make it to the end before giving up, and
poking around the game files for more info. If this author will be
willing to program in a modern IF programming language, I think they
might score very well in next year's competition.

> Games rated a 5:


> Carmen Devine: Supernatural Troubleshooter: Good premise (having a
> werewolf PC with appropriate special abilities), but the implementation
> is somewhat too shallow. The latter goes especially for NPCs.
>

Carmen Devine was about the fifth game I played in the competition, and
the first one I found which I felt was really worth recommending. As
such, I'm not sure whether I judged it by the same metric as later
games I discovered in the competition which were even better, but here
are my scores:

technical quality 4/5
narrative quality 5/5
depth and scale of implementation 4/5
personal enjoyment 5/5
Competition score 9/10

> Games rated a 6:

> Hedge: The minimal path through the game featured just enough for a
> rating of six. Of the optional puzzles, I couldn't master even a single
> one.
>

>From my notes:
I spent the first 45 minutes of play trying to solve a diagramless
crossword puzzle presented to me by a bouncer. It turned out that the
solution to the puzzle was inconsequential (assuming a solution even
exists) and that I was supposed to read the puzzle in some other way.

Hedge has so many red herrings, it begs for a fish fry. The puzzles
are incongrous, with arbitrary solutions. Stupid, dangerous behavior
has an equal chance of getting you killed, or advancing you to the next
stage of the game.

The last thing I typed, after two hours of frustration, was "wake",
hoping that If this were another goddamn "You're having a dream"
game, then the surrealism, incongruity and frustration might make more
sense. Unfortunately I only got the default response: "the dreadful
truth is, this is not a dream"

>
> Unauthorized Termination: A very convincing game world with a
> thoroughly thought through and consequently implemented conception.
> Failed to get a higher rating due to minor technical problems, and a
> few story inconsistencies.
>

I had trouble getting into this

My scores
narative quality 2/5
"Cold, gloomy but rather beautiful place"

technical quality 2/5
>x remains "gamma sigma has burn marks"
>take remains "you can't see that"

depth and scope of implementation 3/5
The author has tried to introduce a lot of new commands, but that
doesn't make up for the overall lack of depth.

personal enjoyment 0/5. Sorry. The introduction was dull, and after
visiting several locations, with descriptions like those cited above, I
just didn't get it.

Competition score 3/10

> Game rated a 9+:
>
> Legion: A planet as a PC (well, sort of) - I don't think I've ever
> encountered something like this! Very thorough implementation with
> multiple endings. Probably the only complaint (which should be rather
> considered nitpicking) - more emotions wouldn't harm.
>

Legion had a strong narrative quality, and novel concept. It was a
little too artsy for me-- I'm more "old school". But I can understand
why others would like this game.

u...@mail.ru

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Nov 19, 2006, 1:53:27 PM11/19/06
to

"""dgen...@hotmail.com wrote:
"""
> u...@mail.ru wrote:
>
snip

>
> > Games rated a 3:
>
> > The Bible Retold: A not-too-brilliant comic retelling of a parable from
> > the Gospel. Technically, it probably deserves one or two more points,
> > but I think this isn't an appropriate subject for attempts on humour.
> > (Yes, I'm a Christian.)
>
> This game was downright reverent, compared to last year's "Jesus of
> Nazareth" entry by Paul Allen Panks. In that version, Jesus does hand
> to hand combat against his adverseries.

That's true, but I think I've rated JoN a one last year.

snip

> > Games rated a 5:
> > Carmen Devine: Supernatural Troubleshooter: Good premise (having a
> > werewolf PC with appropriate special abilities), but the implementation
> > is somewhat too shallow. The latter goes especially for NPCs.
> >
>
> Carmen Devine was about the fifth game I played in the competition, and
> the first one I found which I felt was really worth recommending. As
> such, I'm not sure whether I judged it by the same metric as later
> games I discovered in the competition which were even better, but here
> are my scores:
>
> technical quality 4/5
> narrative quality 5/5
> depth and scale of implementation 4/5
> personal enjoyment 5/5
> Competition score 9/10

Well, it's difficult to discuss why I didn't rate it higher without
getting into more detail, so here is some

S

P

O

I

L

E

R


S

P

A

C

E


As I've been talking about bad NPC implementation, I've meant, for
instance, the Fox Spirit. I didn't see anything threatening about her,
in spite of what the game told me. I couldn't get how and why she would
wipe out a whole settlement - all the way, she just acted like a
slightly naughty child, appearing pretty harmless. She didn't even try
to stop me as I was preparing to exorcize her, although I anything but
concealed my intentions. For the wolf pack, the very basic animation
wasn't as evident, but it still showed through when I insisted on
interaction too much.

Considering the plot, with all the interesting promises there were at
the beginning, turned out to be pretty straightforward, there was no
way I could give it more than a six.

> > Games rated a 6:
>
> > Hedge: The minimal path through the game featured just enough for a
> > rating of six. Of the optional puzzles, I couldn't master even a single
> > one.
> >
>
> >From my notes:
> I spent the first 45 minutes of play trying to solve a diagramless
> crossword puzzle presented to me by a bouncer. It turned out that the
> solution to the puzzle was inconsequential (assuming a solution even
> exists) and that I was supposed to read the puzzle in some other way.
>
> Hedge has so many red herrings, it begs for a fish fry. The puzzles
> are incongrous, with arbitrary solutions. Stupid, dangerous behavior
> has an equal chance of getting you killed, or advancing you to the next
> stage of the game.
>
> The last thing I typed, after two hours of frustration, was "wake",
> hoping that If this were another goddamn "You're having a dream"
> game, then the surrealism, incongruity and frustration might make more
> sense. Unfortunately I only got the default response: "the dreadful
> truth is, this is not a dream"

Sure, it mostly consists of red herrings (90% inside the Hedge are
nothing else, as it seems). I also used the walkthrough intensely
(actually, the crossword puzzle was no exception). Still, for me, the
story finally made enough sense to give it a 6.

> >
> > Unauthorized Termination: A very convincing game world with a
> > thoroughly thought through and consequently implemented conception.
> > Failed to get a higher rating due to minor technical problems, and a
> > few story inconsistencies.
> >
>
> I had trouble getting into this
>
> My scores
> narative quality 2/5
> "Cold, gloomy but rather beautiful place"
>
> technical quality 2/5
> >x remains "gamma sigma has burn marks"
> >take remains "you can't see that"
>
> depth and scope of implementation 3/5
> The author has tried to introduce a lot of new commands, but that
> doesn't make up for the overall lack of depth.
>
> personal enjoyment 0/5. Sorry. The introduction was dull, and after
> visiting several locations, with descriptions like those cited above, I
> just didn't get it.
>
> Competition score 3/10

It's by no means perfect, but the author managed to create a pretty
unusual game world that was consistent for the most part.

Valentine

Magnus Olsson

unread,
Nov 21, 2006, 5:06:17 AM11/21/06
to
In article <1163942956....@m7g2000cwm.googlegroups.com>,

<dgen...@hotmail.com> wrote:
>
>u...@mail.ru wrote:
>
>snip
>>
>> Wumpus Run: A seemingly faithful remake of an adventure game from the
>> 1980-s. Represents a randomly generated maze with several opportunities
>> for irrevocable dying with almost no warning. Winning or failing
>> depends purely on luck - as much as in a dice game.
>>
>
>The original Wumpus game was not dependent on luck. It was a puzzle
>game, with crude graphics, in some ways (but not all ways) similar to
>more recent "Mine Sweeper" puzzles.

I think you've got it confused with some other game - or perhaps
there was more than one "Hutn the Wumpus"?

AFAIK the original Wumpus game is the one written by Gregory Yob in
1972 and then published in _Creative Computing_ and in David Ahl's
_101 Basic Computer Games_. It was a "proto-text-adventure" in that it
was purely text based (no graphics at all, not even crude graphics),
had a map consisting of "rooms" (caves, really) connected with
passages, and room-to-room movement. The map was fixed (or, in some
versions, could be chosen from a list of fixed maps), but it did
contain some elements of luck, in that the Wumpus and the various
hazards were randomly placed on the map when you started the game.

The original source code (or something that looks like the original;
I don't have Ahl's book handy) is here:
<http://ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/source/basic/wumpus.bas>

My re-creation in Inform 6 is here:
<http://www.df.lth.se/~mol/owngames/wumpus.zip>

--
Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se)
PGP Public Key available at http://www.df.lth.se/~mol

dgen...@hotmail.com

unread,
Nov 21, 2006, 6:27:23 AM11/21/06
to

Fascinating. Apparently there was more than one "Hunt the Wumpus", but
all derived from the same original concept.

This is the one I remember:
http://www.videogamehouse.net/huntwumpus.html

The map was revealed gradually, as the player moved to new locations.
The player could not stop in the twisty little passages, shown on the
map, but would be shuttled immediately to the next room at the end of
the passage. If bats, wumpus, or pit were in an adjacent room, the
player would be alerted by a text message (or maybe sound) but would
not know in which direction the hazard was located.

If you stumbled into the same location as the wumpus, you were
immediately killed (which didn't seem to be the case with this year's
comp entry). However, it was possible locate the Wumpus without
stumbling into its lair, by paying attention to the warning sounds, and
mapping out all the other "safe" locations around the Wumpus. In that
sense, it was like the Minesweeper puzzles which became popular in the
90s.

Dave

Neil Cerutti

unread,
Nov 21, 2006, 7:14:06 AM11/21/06
to
On 2006-11-21, dgen...@hotmail.com <dgen...@hotmail.com> wrote:
> Fascinating. Apparently there was more than one "Hunt the
> Wumpus", but all derived from the same original concept.
>
> This is the one I remember:
> http://www.videogamehouse.net/huntwumpus.html
>
> The map was revealed gradually, as the player moved to new
> locations. The player could not stop in the twisty little
> passages, shown on the map, but would be shuttled immediately
> to the next room at the end of the passage. If bats, wumpus,
> or pit were in an adjacent room, the player would be alerted by
> a text message (or maybe sound) but would not know in which
> direction the hazard was located.

That's the one I first played, I *think* it was on my TI99/4A,
but it might have been on the Aquarius.

However I caught more Wumpus in M.U.L.E. than in any other
format.

--
Neil Cerutti
Ask about our plans for owning your home --sign at mortgage company

Magnus Olsson

unread,
Nov 21, 2006, 7:29:27 AM11/21/06
to
In article <1164108443.4...@j44g2000cwa.googlegroups.com>,

<dgen...@hotmail.com> wrote:
>Fascinating. Apparently there was more than one "Hunt the Wumpus", but
>all derived from the same original concept.
>
>This is the one I remember:
>http://www.videogamehouse.net/huntwumpus.html

Interesting! I'd never heard of that one (mainly because I've never
seen a TI 99/4A in the flesh). The TI version is from 1980, so the
Yobs game appears to be the original.

The videogamehouse site actually lets you play versions of both the TI
version and the original text game online - very nice!

Bob

unread,
Nov 21, 2006, 3:55:58 PM11/21/06
to

Neil Cerutti wrote:
> However I caught more Wumpus in M.U.L.E. than in any other
> format.

Now that's interesting. I don't think I've ever seen a Wumpus in
M.U.L.E. Was there one in the version for the C64? If so, how do I
catch it?

Bob

Richard Bos

unread,
Nov 21, 2006, 6:27:51 PM11/21/06
to
dgen...@hotmail.com wrote:

> Magnus Olsson wrote:
> > AFAIK the original Wumpus game is the one written by Gregory Yob in
> > 1972 and then published in _Creative Computing_ and in David Ahl's
> > _101 Basic Computer Games_. It was a "proto-text-adventure" in that it
> > was purely text based (no graphics at all, not even crude graphics),
> > had a map consisting of "rooms" (caves, really) connected with
> > passages, and room-to-room movement. The map was fixed (or, in some
> > versions, could be chosen from a list of fixed maps), but it did
> > contain some elements of luck, in that the Wumpus and the various
> > hazards were randomly placed on the map when you started the game.
>

> Fascinating. Apparently there was more than one "Hunt the Wumpus", but
> all derived from the same original concept.
>
> This is the one I remember:
> http://www.videogamehouse.net/huntwumpus.html

That very page tells you that the original version was completely text
based.

Richard

Neil Cerutti

unread,
Nov 22, 2006, 7:38:16 AM11/22/06
to

After you've completed your actions for the turn, you can hunt
the wumpos. A little black cave opening appears randomly in
the mountains, acompanied by a short beep whose frequency
gives you a clue to the location (the higher the frequency, the
farther "north" on the map is the cave). The cave stays open for
a little while, and then closes. After closing it sometimes
switches mountains.

If you run onto the cave while it's open, you catch the Wumpus
and it pays you off to let it go (the prize increases with the
turn counter). If you're skillfull and lucky, you still have time
to gamble.

I've never played any but the C64 version; I don't know if it
works differently elsewhere.

Tip: The Wumpus will not appear if you're standing too close to
the cave opening. Standing above and to the side of its lair is
the best practice; when it appears pounce diagonally down to nab
it.

--
Neil Cerutti
Outside of the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the
country. --Marion Barry

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